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What Does NHL Realignment mean for the Bruins?

It's over and done with: Gary Bettman and the NHL have realigned the NHL for either next season or the season after that (Oilers President Patrick LaForge has revealed that a little more work may need to be done on the playoff format next season). Instead of two conferences with three divisions in each, there will be two conferences with two divisions.

East 1: Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators, Sabres, Lightning, and Panthers;

East 2: Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Penguins, Capitals (NBC will probably have a field day), Flyers, and Hurricanes;

Central: Blackhawks, Blues, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Stars, Wild, Predators, Jets;

West: Ducks, Sharks, Avalanche, Kings, Flames, Oilers, Canucks, Coyotes.

So what, exactly, does this mean for the Bruins?

The breakdown of games in this format means this: the Bruins will play six times against every divisional rival. Fine, the Bruins keep all their standing rivalries in the Northeast Division, and great, two extra games against Tampa Bay. They're an exciting team to watch and play against, as evidenced by last year's playoff series. But the Panthers? They're a good team, but there's no ill will, no history to Bruins-Panthers games. Perhaps it's an opportunity to create some animosity; the Bruins will have to as this plan moves forward.

This new realignment has a few other downfalls, as well: the remainder of the games, after the 36 in-division games, will be home and homes with teams from the other three conferences. No more four games a year against the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, and Flyers, four teams that obviously draw hype and excitement. On a selfish note for Bruins fans, it means one less opportunity to go to games in New York and New Jersey every year. However, it does guarantee that every West team comes to the Garden; it also guarantees that Bruins fans living in other NHL cities will get to see their team play at least once a year.

Playoffs will be within the division for the first two rounds, which means it's more likely that the Bruins will play the Canadiens each and every year, which is fun. The final two rounds have not been formatted yet, nor have the names. This new format, with eight teams in the west conference divisions and seven in the east divisions, seems poised for expansion; it leaves some flexibility based on what new cities could be awarded new teams.

Also, from On the Forecheck, the average travel times for each new division:

Central Conference Avg. Dist. West Conference Avg. Dist.
Chicago Blackhawks 434 Anaheim Ducks 743
Columbus Blue Jackets 524 Calgary Flames 875
Dallas Stars 846 Colorado Avalanche 886
Detroit Red Wings 530 Edmonton Oilers 1008
Minnesota Wild 557 Los Angeles Kings 737
Nashville Predators 549 Phoenix Coyotes 812
St. Louis Blues 460 San Jose Sharks 745
Winnipeg Jets 863 Vancouver Canucks 895
East 1 Conference Avg. Dist. East 2 Conference Avg. Dist.
Boston Bruins 637 Carolina Hurricanes 366
Buffalo Sabres 535 New Jersey Devils 173
Florida Panthers 1087 New York Islanders 191
Montreal Canadiens 617 New York Rangers 177
Ottawa Senators 576 Philadelphia Flyers 164
Tampa Bay Lightning 1013 Pittsburgh Penguins 289
Toronto Maple Leafs 553 Washington Capitals 195

While travel in the Bruins' conference is padded upward by the Florida teams' travel times, this also makes things a little more balanced for West teams who have complained about worse travel conditions in the past.

What do you think about this new system?